Emory Report
April 7, 2008
Volume 60, Number 26


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April 7, 2008
Top poets praise, perform, inspire


Emory’s salute to National Poetry Month got off to a joyous start April 2 with the debut exhibition of the University’s Danowski Poetry Library and opening of “A Fine Excess,” an aptly named gathering of some of the nation’s best loved poets, who graced audiences with readings, conversations and good humor.

One fortunate addition to the schedule was a Wednesday afternoon dialogue between Rosemary Magee, vice president and secretary of the University, and Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, one of the conference supporters. The talk was part of a series of campus dialogues Magee has been conducting with artists on creativity in her role as chair of Emory’s Creativity and the Arts strategic initiative.

Among Gioia’s comments: He called the Danowski collection “the King Tut’s tomb of American and British poetry.” His allusion to the just-announced King Tut exhibit seemed all the more on-point at the opening reception of “A Fine Excess.” Later that evening, a delighted Raymond Danowski stood amidst the exhibition of his life’s collection with the look of someone who has received a longed-for gift.

Gioia, a poet and literary critic himself, commended Stephen Enniss, director of the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, for recognizing and encouraging Emory to obtain, preserve and share some of the world’s great archival treasures.

“You’re creating one of the great literary research libraries in the world, certainly for modern poetry,” Gioia said of Emory. That development, he predicted, will benefit every student and faculty member in the humanities either directly because of the research they can do, or indirectly “because of the kind of people that an archive and a library of this quality will attract and keep.”

As sunlight slanted across the Quad, Pulitzer Prize winner W.D. Snodgrass began “A Fine Excess” with a reading in the Carlos Museum reception hall. And although he railed against critics’ label of him as a “confessional” poet, listeners were treated to an array of his work, both early and recent, that embraced both the personal and profound. His topics — and often humorous commentary — ranged from his failed quest for a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa (“April Inventory”) to the irony of his family life (“For the Third Marriage of My First Ex-Wife”).

Later, Snodgrass joined other poet luminaries and attendees as Kevin Young, curator of the Danowski Poetry Library, gave an overview of “Democratic Vistas” and thanked a long list of Emory professionals who made it come to life, including exhibition director Julie Delliquanti, John Klingler of Schatten Gallery, Teresa Burk of MARBL; and Ann Frellsen, Kirsten Wehner and Julie Newton of Woodruff Library Preservation Department.

It was Klingler, said Young, who helped fashion a unique keepsake for Danowski: a tiny, fold-out book that is a facsimile of a 24-page hand-written letter Danowski penned at the time he placed his collection at Emory, explaining the motivations behind his fabulous collection.

More than 100 people from all over the country and overseas registered to attend the three day celebration of poetry, and judging from the comment cards, says Lea McLees, the libraries communications director, audiences left inspired, delighted — and wanting more.